Cinema 2013: The Year of ‘Coming of Age’ Tales

I watch a lot of TV, but I watch even more movies. I’ve seen 136 movies that came out in 2013 so far, with about 20 to go. As I was putting a list of my favorites together, I noticed two major themes kept popping up. Last year was a great year for coming-of-age tales, especially around young adults (and I don’t mean kids’ movies). I’m sure this is true of a lot of years and a lot of movies, but at least seven of my favorite ten movies of 2013 were a coming-of-age or a deeper understanding of the world. Thinking back to the last couple of years, far more of my favorites this year saw an emotional growth and development than in years’ past. The other theme was that a lot of my favorite movies told very small stories, many about singular events or places, but did them beautifully.

Here are my ten favorite movies of the year. They’re not the films I think are the best, because that’s a far more boring list for me to write. Instead, these are ones that I could re-watch over and over again.
Stories We Tell

10. Stories We Tell

Why I Love It: Because it tells a really unique and intimate story in a way that could be incredibly uncomfortable but is instead wonderful. Because Sarah Polley knows exactly what she’s doing. Because we get a glimpse into her life and see her entire family talk about something extremely personal, and it’s okay because it’s all about Sarah Polley and she’s okay with it. Because it’s structured beautifully and is more of a mystery than you’d think it could be. Because the re-enactments are so good that you think they’re real. Because it’s, hands-down, the best documentary of the year.

Catching Fire

9. Catching Fire

Why I Love It: Because it was my favorite book in the Hunger Games trilogy and it exceeded my enormous expectations. Because it took the few things good from the first movie, got rid of the rest and created an awesome film on so many levels. Because the arena was as awesome as I had hoped it would be (even if it was on screen for less time than I thought it would be). Because the stuff outside the arena was more interesting than the stuff inside the arena, and I totally didn’t expect that. Because it sets up an awesome final story in Mockingjay (which they shouldn’t have split into two films, but whatever). Because of Finnick and Johanna and Beetee and Wiress, and because all were played perfectly (especially Finnick and Johanna).

The Way Way Back

8. The Way, Way Back

Why I Love It: Because: Sam Rockwell. Because, seriously, Sam Rockwell is the best and is on fire the whole time. Because I know who Duncan (aka Pop ‘n’ Lock) is and I feel bad for him and it’s awesome to see him grow. Because of that whole Pop ‘n’ Lock section and everything that comes after it. Because it’s another Faxon/Rash joint, and because Jim Rash is awesome on-screen, too. Because Maya Rudolph is awesome, too. Because it’s almost somehow better the second time watching it. Because Steve Carrell is so unlikeable and he doesn’t let up for a second.

The World's End

7. The World’s End

Why I Love It: Because it’s the best of the three Cornetto movies, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Because it’s a perfect conclusion to the unrelated trilogy of those movies, in so many ways. Because it tells the most grown-up (and best) story of the three movies in the same loveably childish way of the first two without sacrificing any substance or impact. Because there are robots (except they’re not robots, by definition, natch) who are violent and bleed blue blood. Because Pierce Brosnan shows up because why not? Because you wait almost two hours to see the Cornetto tie-in, and then it happens, and then it’s gone, and it’s perfect.

The Spectacular Now

6. The Spectacular Now

Why I Love It: Because Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are amazingly talented and perfect for these roles. Because the supporting cast members – from Brie Larson to Bob Odenkirk to Jennifer Jason Leigh to Kyle Chandler and beyond – are all great characters that help make the leads even better. Because it tells a great story, and tells it at the right pace and lets the audience keep up. Because it tells a small story in a great way (like a lot of my other favorite movies). Because James Ponsoldt makes good movies. Because the end is perfect.

Short Term 12

5. Short Term 12

Why I Love It: Because it tells so many small stories about people that coalesce into one amazing story about a place. Because Brie Larson has been so good in support in so many movies and she totally delivers in the lead here. Because of Brie with the baseball bat. Because the story is cyclical and bookends in a perfect way. Because everyone in this movie is so young and they’re all such insanely talented actors. Because it’s happy and sad and funny and depressing, all at the same time. Because I had to wait forever to see this movie and it was still worth the wait.


4. Her

Why I Love It: Because it’s far, far, far funnier than I thought it would (or could) be. Because I want an OS like Samantha. Because of that idiotic video game character (and also because I want to play that video game). Because Olivia Wilde is a total nut-job in her one scene and she nails it. Because Amy Adams is great throughout the movie. Because Scarlett Johnansson is never on-screen yet she’s there the whole time. Because, oh yeah, Joaquin Phoenix single-handedly carries like three-quarters of this movie and is unbelievable … just so, so, so good (and he should totally win an Oscar for this). Because I want to live in Spike Jonze’s brain. Because of the job – and whole industry – that Joaquin Phoenix has and works in. Because of those pants.

The Wolf of Wall Street

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

Why I Love It: Because it’s three hours of debauchery and never feels like it’s that long. Because there’s no way Leonardo DiCaprio should be that effortlessly funny – in both delivery and in physical humor – and yet he is. Because of Jonah Hill’s teeth – and the scene where he first sees Margot Robbie. Because, uh, Margot Robbie is fairly attractive. Because of that scene where she and Mackenzie Meehan dance to “Gloria.” Because of the ‘ludes – and the Lemmons. Because I’m able to enjoy a movie like this and understand it doesn’t glorify the deplorable behavior of many Wall Street brokers. Because of Jon Bernthal, and because of how he can sell me a pen. Because of Leonardo DiCaprio dancing at his wedding. Because of Matthew McConaughey steals the show in his, like, four minutes on screen – and because of his chest-beating and because, “Those are rookie numbers.”

Spring Breakers

2. Spring Breakers

Why I Love It: Because love it or hate it, this is the most divisive movie of the year (and the most divisive in recent memory). Because it’s awesome to see these teen role models go bad. Because Alien – and James Franco – ain’t from this planet, y’all. Because he’s got shorts – in every color. Because it uses music perfectly: from start to finish, from Skrillex to Gucci Mane – and especially Britney Spears. Because: “Pretend it’s a video game,” and you have to do that as the audience, too. Because it uses editing as a tool and a weapon in a way I’ve never seen it used before. Because of the final confrontation. Because so many people hate this movie and misunderstand this movie. Because Harmony Korine can make a movie making fun of young people, and young people can love it and not understand they’re the butt of the joke – or because he can celebrate their debauchery and they can revel in it.

Sparrows Dance

1. Sparrows Dance

Why I Love It: Because I loved this movie completely, from start to finish. Because I knew almost nothing about it going in, other than seeing a vaguely positive review written about it, and it blew me away. Because I’d never heard of Marin Ireland before and she is OUTSTANDING in this movie. Because she’s never named, and she doesn’t have to be. Because Paul Sparks is just as good, and just as quirky (in a totally different way) and is a perfect fit for her. Because it has the best title credits in the history of movies. Because the cinematography truly gives you a sense of claustrophobia and panic and a feeling of being boxed in. Because it’s, essentially, a bottle movie. Because it’s essentially a stage play, and the camera shot that proves this is perfect. Because it tells the smallest story of any movie on this list – a woman’s toilet breaks – and it’s more than enough to fill a movie. Because at 80 minutes it’s a perfect length, but I would watch it for hours. Because no one’s heard of this movie, but everyone should.



  1. Jupiter Ascending
  2. Cheap Thrills
  3. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
  4. Mockingjay, Part 1
  5. Interstellar
  6. The Raid 2: Berendal
  7. Godzilla
  8. Noah
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy
  10. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Do you agree? Disagree? What were your favorite movies of 2013? Let me know in the comments!

About Joey Lewandowski

Joey is the Manager of Content and Community at ShellyPalmer. With a journalism degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey, he's a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan, enjoys watching movies and loves all most things tech. You can follow him on Twitter @soulpopped.



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